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First Look: The Sony Handycam HDR-CX220 is cheap, small, and lightweight

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First Look: The Sony Handycam HDR-CX220 is cheap, small, and lightweight

2:36 /

The only thing the Sony Handycam HDR-CX220 seems to have going for it is the low price, but "you get what you pay for" has never rung truer.

The biggest attraction of Sony's low-end Handycam HDR-CX220 is its $199 or so price point. But even that seems too much for the mediocre video quality, occasionally confusing interface, and frill-free features that you get for the money. On the plus side, the camcorder is relatively small and light. It's got a built-in lens cover and a built-in USB cable that you use for charging. It doesn't ship with the charger that you plug in to the outlet, but it works with most phone chargers, as well as plugging in to your laptop. You can also-- if you don't wanna spend $20 for Sony's charger, you can buy one for between $5 and $10 online. The camcorder's one advantage over, say, a camera phone or camera is its 27x zoom lens. The 32x refers to extended zoom, which requires that you turn off active steady shot. And this camcorder uses electronic image stabilization, not optical. Other mythical numbers include the claim of 8.9 megapixels for still photo resolution. The sensor actually outputs 2.3 megapixel images, which are interpolated up. You're probably better off with your cell phone for stills. The real problem with the CX220 is the video quality. It's pretty mediocre with poor tonal range, mushy edges, and incorrect oversaturated colors. And that's only if you change the default settings. Out of the box, the camcorder defaults to sub HD quality low-bit rate video-- you know, the type of video we saw five years ago. It's terrible. And the interface can also be confusing for changing that default because it automatically jumps to the Cancel icon rather than Okay. And they're in opposite ends of the screen. Plus, it repeatedly pops up warnings when you try to change it. And the joystick feels jumpy for moving around the screen, and the screen is pretty coarse and displays completely different colors than those in the recorded video. The CX220 is essentially the same model with respect to video quality as the CX230s, CX290, and PJ230. They all have the same sensor and lens, though they have different features. Ultimately, with all of them, you end up paying more money for the same poor quality video. I wish I could say that $200 buys you a great camcorder deal, but it really doesn't. I'm Lori Grunin, and this is the Sony Handycam HDR-CX220.

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